5 ways to move your board into the digital age

For a number of years now, it’s been evident that boards need more support to understand the full potential impact that digital is having on businesses.

Boards themselves recognise this. McKinsey confirmed the fact over five years ago with research that showed that just 16% of board directors said they fully understood how the industry dynamics were evolving. More recent research from Accenture has shown that little has changed over the intervening years – and this is despite the fact the pandemic has pushed digital to the centre of organisational strategies at a unprecedented pace.

So what’s the best way to tackle this issue? Unfortunately the answer can’t lie in just recruiting board members with digital experience. Such people are few and far between, are in demand, and can be exceptionally difficult to recruit. This means that efforts must also focus on getting existing board members up to speed on the digital issues that matter most.

We’ve been thinking about this recently at Admincontrol, and have come up with a 5-point plan for you:

1. Do your research

First of all you need to work out exactly what your board directors need to know. And what they don’t. It’s not necessary for them to understand how technology works, but they do need to understand the business impact those technologies have. Start by assessing the technologies you are deploying – this could be anything from IoT to cloud – and think about framing the potential competitive value and risks that they entail in the context of your organisation that require long term governance and oversight.

2. Create a matrix that defines the need

Once you have worked through this process, it’s a good idea to produce a matrix or other document that defines the knowledge and skills you need at board level. This will help to establish what you need from new board director recruits, if you are going down that route, or maybe prompt the need for an external advisory council. Just as importantly, it will help you to see where existing board members need to develop their knowledge.

3. Implement training and education programmes

It may sound strange putting in place training for highly experienced people with proven track records, but in the case of digital it is necessary. Using the matrix you have developed as a guide, consider rolling out training and education programmes carried out by either external experts or digital savvy people from within the business. Research shows that this approach works. McKinsey recently reported that it spoke to 75 board members who completed this kind of immersive training, and found that more than 50% insisted on making digital transformation the top agenda item for the business as a direct result.

It’s also important to encourage board members to adopt digital technologies themselves

4. Get boards to adopt digital for their own work

It’s also important to encourage board members to adopt digital technologies themselves. The fastest and best way to achieve this is by implementing specialist board portals that enable secure collaboration between the board and other stakeholders.

This will deliver an improvement in both efficiency and data protection. It will also help to enhance your board’s understanding of digital working and facilitate better information sharing on key digital transformation issues. There are benefits for leadership teams too. Board portals enable C-level executives to easily share knowledge securely with board members, for example, making it much easier to communicate with them on the digital challenges they are facing day-to-day.

5. Review your technology investments

If your board is already using a board portal or other digital tools, we also recommend that you review your investments and how your directors are using them – you can find out more about how to do this in our guide to Reviewing board technology investments. This will help you to identify whether you need to invest in more advanced systems to achieve the maximum possible benefits, or whether more education or user training is needed to make sure that digital becomes ingrained in both board-level thinking and working.

Alternatively, fill out this quick 2-minute assessment and we’ll show you if there are gaps in your board technology.

You can find more detail on the points in this blog in our latest eBook: 3 steps to accelerating digital literacy in the boardroom.